Shavuot is first and foremost a holiday of gratitude. We celebrate the first fruits as the early harvest begins. Thank you God, for life and continued sustenance. We celebrate the giving of Torah. Thank you God for giving us a path to meaning and purpose-filled living. I would like to honor Shavuot by appreciating Kol Emeth and the way we have embodied being a holy Congregation during the quarantine.
I am so grateful to the innovative and dynamic team with whom I work. Over a 10-day period we moved Kol Emeth online. Rabbi Graff, Sarah Miller, Elaine Sigal, Pepe Sanchez, Aviva Saitz, Shimrit Elnatan, and Tamika Hayes moved heavens and earth to set it all up and to execute. We decided to use the medium for what it offered rather than replicate what we did in person. We are offering a 10-minute morning meditation; we hosted an interactive Seder with music clips from YouTube; we arranged a scavenger hunt for hametz in the Smithsonian. Thank you to an amazing team for seizing the moment. And the community has come out! Our events have never been so well attended.
We identified some of our most at-risk and isolated members, and over 80 people volunteered to make weekly calls. Those calls have in many cases blossomed into real friendship. Our chesed effort has been organized with loving care by Flaurie S. Imberman, and we are now reaching well over 100 members every week—ensuring that they are okay, cared for, and have enough food. Related, before Passover we tried to call every single member and wish them a good Pesach (we’re currently doing the same for Shavuot). Dale Pearlman rallied dozens of members and helped to reach nearly every single member of our community. We have stepped forward as a congregation to show we care for one another.
Kol Emeth also realized that our obligations extend beyond our own community. Since the Covid outbreak, our Tikkun Olam team of Natalie Telis, Eve Ferber, Jeff Schwarz, and I have worked to raise over $4,000 for LifeMoves, plus an additional $40,000 for the Mountain View Day Center. We have sent many volunteers to IsraAid to help distribute food to the most needy in our area, and made blankets, masks, and food bags, both to help aid workers keep working and to keep the hungry and homeless fed and warm. I am truly grateful to Kara and Miguel Sanchez for their outstanding leadership in this area. And I am moved by the way our congregation has stepped forward to help.
Finally, I am so amazed by the community as a whole. People have come to Zoom prayers and events; people have supported the congregation by volunteering, by participating and by donating. People have been so appreciative of all our work. I know all of us on staff are motivated by all the kindness, appreciation, and involvement.
We have chosen to save lives and to stay connected. We as a community have realized that we have to be in touch and that this health crisis requires us to find new virtual ways of connecting. I do not yet know what the summer and the High Holidays will bring; I do know that everyone has been so flexible, open, and supportive during a time that could have been so difficult for us as a synagogue. Instead, it has become a moment of incredible thriving, where we as a community have shown ourselves to be as needed, as much a source of hope and blessing, as ever in the history of Kol Emeth.
I wish you a lovely Shavuot filled with gratitude and joy!
Rabbi David Booth